Could you live without these foods?

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

August 2012

What would life be like without bread or pancakes or breakfast cereal or rice or pasta? How about milk, cheese or ice cream or even that health food, yogurt? Can you imagine a picnic without hot dog or hamburger buns? Would Asians starve without rice? Could our children develop strong bones without milk?

Let's reach back a mere 15,000 years into human history — about 600 generations — when none of these "staples" existed. Our ancestors were settling throughout Europe, Asia, the Pacific islands North and South America and Australia without relying on any of these foods. They didn't need them. All these areas, even the Australian Outback and the rocky shores of what is now Chile and Peru, grew hundreds of plants that provided all the nourishment that they needed. If we could enjoy their diverse diet of green leafy and root vegetables, nuts, berries and countless varieties of fruits, as well as meat from dozens of species of large and small game, birds and eggs and seafood, we would meet all our nutritional needs.

Unfortunately, with rare exceptions, all the humans that settled the globe eventually took the easy way out, cultivating just a few crops, mostly grains, and domesticating a handful of animals and birds. As the Agricultural Revolution took hold everywhere the price to be paid is recorded in the fossil record. Average height declined and so did life expectancy while infant mortality skyrocketed, not to be reversed until well into the 19th century.

Humans evolved in an atmosphere of a diet that was perfectly suited to their biochemistry. For example, unlike most mammals we cannot manufacture our own vitamin C but there was plenty of it in the myriad of fruits that were available to our ancestors and even in the raw meat of the animals that they ate.

About 150 years ago we learned how to transform marginally nutritious whole grains into refined flour. A century later we made it our primary source of calories and drastically reduced our intake of fruits and vegetables. The result: epidemics of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Here's a challenge. Eliminate all foods made from grain from your diet for only two weeks. Replace them with more fruits, nuts and vegetables. Sure, you'll feel deprived, but you'll also have more energy, no sugar highs or lows, better bowel function and a new appreciation for how good life was in the Stone Age.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.